By Petra Coveney
Magnesium is often touted as the magic mineral for menopausal women because of its important crucial role in whole body health, especially protecting your bones, brain, heart as well has helping to alleviate everything from depression and brain function to sleep issues, muscle aches and pains, and even constipation.
But how true is this, which type of magnesium should you take and how much?
This information in my article below is drawn from many reputable sources, but please remember that I am not a doctor or nutritionist and it is always advisable to consult a specialist before starting a new dietary regime, especially if you are taking any medications.
Magnesium & Bone Health
Osteoporosis affects 1:2 women in the UK although it is usually not diagnosed until later life after a fall leading to an osteoporotic fracture.
Bone density or strength is initially laid down during puberty to mid 20’s which is why a calcium-rich diet, exposure to vitamin D from sunlight and weight-bearing exercise are so important. Our bone density starts to slowly decline from our mid 30’s and women experience a rapid reduction in oestrogen– unless you are taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Why does this happen?
Bones are constantly regenerating in a process known as osteogenesis. During this stage, bones are broken down by osteoclasts and then rebuilt by osteoblasts.
During menopause, the decline in oestrogen causes an imbalance in osteoclast activity (bone loss) so that more bone material is lost than rebuilt. This leads to weakened, porous bones known as osteopenia, which can later develop into brittle bones – osteoporosis. So replacing lost oestrogen can support your bone density.
However, that’s not the whole picture. Approximately 60% of your magnesium is stored in your bones and magnesium deficiency is associated with osteoporosis due to its important role in cartilage and bone matrix calcification, or increased bone strength. Magnesium may also have a role to play in the activity of parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamin D, both of which are crucial for bone development.Low magnesium and oestrogen also appears to cause more inflammation in muscles and bones.
It is important to note that not all menopausal women will develop magnesium deficiency, but 1:2 women do development osteoporosis in the UK so taking HRT and increasing magnesium intake may relieve some symptoms and improve long term health.
Evidence of magnesium and bone health:
A study of 20 women with osteoporosis found that supplementing with 1,830 mg of magnesium citrate — an equivalent of 290 mg of elemental magnesium — per day for 30 days led to decreased bone turnover, which suggests a decrease in bone loss (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19488681/)
In a 7-year follow-up study in 73,684 postmenopausal women, a high intake of 334–422 mg or greater of magnesium from food or supplements was associated with greater bone mineral density. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3953885/)
Magnesium & Sleep disorder
Up to 60% of menopausal women experience insomnia or difficulty sleeping. Compared with premenopausal women, those transitioning through menopause, report higher rates of interrupted sleep, especially waking up throughout the night. (Healthline & https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4621258/). Habitual lack of sleep contributes to other menopausal symptoms: irritability, depression, stress, weight gain and daytime fatigue which may affect brain fog and difficulties concentrating.
Magnesium may promote sleep by regulating your body’s circadian rhythms, known as the body’s natural clock, and increasing muscle relaxation. Research indicates that low magnesium intake is associated with fewer hours of sleep and overall lower sleep quality. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6910806/)
According to a 2012 study of 46 older adults, researchers found that supplementing with 500 mg of magnesium — an equivalent of 250 mg elemental magnesium — daily led to a significant increase in sleep duration, quality of sleep and melatonin production, while no improvements were seen in the control group
Magnesium & depression and anxiety
Magnesium plays a key role in brain function, mood regulation, and stress response, which may affect the progression and onset of depression and anxiety.
Various studies have connected low magnesium levels to higher rates of depression.
In a study in 171 postmenopausal women, 81.9% of participants had low blood levels of magnesium. What’s more, those with low magnesium were also more likely to report low to moderate levels of depression (22Trusted Source).
Finally, older adults are at an increased risk of magnesium deficiency. Therefore, as a woman ages, it’s particularly important to get enough magnesium through diet or a supplement (24Trusted Source).
Magnesium & heart health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27717539/
Though menopause does not cause heart disease, postmenopausal women are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol due to factors like decreased levels of oestrogen, stress, age, and poor lifestyle habits
According to research into 3,713 postmenopausal women, those women with high magnesium levels had lower levels of inflammation which is associated with good heart health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852744/
Magnesium helps control heart muscle contractions and nerve impulses, allowing for a healthy heartbeat.
To recap, Post-menopausal women in general have lower levels of magnesium and research shows that magnesium can reduce symptoms such as osteoporosis, anxiety, sleep disorder, depression, and cardio vascular disease. In the general population, magnesium can help reduce some muscle and bone aches and pains, and is necessary for the healthy functioning of the brain, heart and nervous system. So it makes sense to increase magnesium in the healthiest ways possible.
What kind of magnesium and how much?
Magnesium Rich foods
Magnesium is essential for good health and safe to consume from both food and supplements, although nutritionists generally recommend that it is best absorbed through foods.
It’s recommended that adult women get 320 mg of magnesium per day. Approximately 10% of the daily magnesium requirement is derived from water. Green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed cereals are rich sources of magnesium. Also, some magnesium is available in fruits, fish, meat, and milk products https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5926493/#B2
Interestingly, most of us in the western world consume less than the recommended amount of magnesium, partly because of the processed foods we eat but also because of how our foods are manufactured, eg agricultural practices that on soil with low magnesium and demineralised water.
Can you have too much magnesium?
Magnesium consumed through food is considered safe for most people because you simply excrete what you don’t need. However, it can cause stomach upset in some people and people with reduced kidney function and other health issues should consult their doctor.
Magnesium is found in many foods and supplements.
Magnesium is found in many foods, making it easy to incorporate it into your diet. Foods high in magnesium include:
beans (black, red, white)
fish, such as halibut, mackerel, and salmon
leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard
nuts, such as almonds or cashews
seeds, such as pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower
whole grains, including breads, pastas, or brown rice
Magnesium aspartate, citrate, chloride, and malate are known for being the most bioavailable — most easily absorbed.
A menopause multi vitamin should contain enough magnesium to meet your daily magnesium needs, but you should still eat magnesium-rich foods as well.
Elemental magnesium is the actual amount of magnesium in a supplement. Most supplement containers list the weight of the supplement, such as 1,000 mg, which includes all ingredients. Look for “elemental magnesium” on the nutrition label to know how much you’re getting.
READ Petra Coveney’s Blogpost on what kinds of Magnesium help with different symptoms: